Vijay Seshadri

BA, Oberlin College. MFA, Columbia University. Author of Wild Kingdom, The Long Meadow, The Disappearances (New and Selected Poems; Harper Collins India), and 3 Sections (September, 2013); former editor at The New Yorker; essayist and book reviewer in The New Yorker, The New York Times Book Review, The Threepenny Review, The American Scholar, and various literary quarterlies. Recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, James Laughlin Prize of the Academy of American Poets, MacDowell Colony’s Fellowship for Distinguished Poetic Achievement, The Paris Review’s Bernard F. Conners Long Poem Prize; grants from New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation; and area studies fellowships from Columbia University. SLC, 1998–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Writing

First-Year Studies: Fake News, Real News, News That Stays News

Open , FYS—Year

This combination literary survey and writing course will introduce students to the rhetoric and reality of factual writing and to the dilemmas of truth that obtain when we take complex, fragmentary human experience—whether personal or social—and transform that experience into stories. Students will be asked to write their own stories and to research stories about the world along the spectrum of nonfiction from journalism to essays to oral histories to case studies. They will also be asked to think about the underlying epistemic problems that come with representing facts in language—from blunt-force manipulations of truth for the sake of political gain to more subtle distortions that arise from the techniques of creation, representation, and persuasion. We will read a broad variety of writers, ranging from Aristotle, Longinus, and St. Augustine to Basho, George Orwell, Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, and Marshall McLuhan to a legion of contemporary writers writing about race, gender, sex, art, technology, the environment, sports, and themselves. We will think long and fruitfully about how the ephemeral facticity of the world is fashioned into, on the one hand, propaganda and polemic and, on the other, great art.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Previous Courses

Documenting Identity: Undergraduate Nonfiction Writing

Open , Seminar—Fall

Identity politics, which has been of serious consequence across the political spectrum recently, has been accompanied by an explosion of identity writing over the past 30 years. In this (largely, though not exclusively) nonfiction writing class, we will look as deeply as we can into what identity actually is—and what, as far as literature is concerned, the rhetoric of identity is—by reading writers ranging from Whitman, Freud, Kafka, Pessoa, Woolf, and Baldwin to contemporaries whose subject matter comprises race, sex, disability and ability, gender dysphoria and euphoria, and existential exaltation or dread. Conference work will consist of reading tailored to individuated projects; one large identity essay (the term is flexible and can encompass anything from journalism of the self to confession to critical inquiry), which will be workshopped; and a series of short exercises, some of which will also be discussed in class.

Faculty

Nonfiction Workshop

Workshop—Spring
This workshop will focus on the elements common to a wide range of nonfiction writing. We will examine and analyze the structure of the well-formed sentence, of the paragraph, of the personal essay and memoir fragment. Readings will be drawn from a wide range of contemporary and classic texts, and the class will be assigned exercises based on the readings. We will look closely, at some point in the semester, at contemporary experimental nonfiction writing. Students will also be asked to workshop at least two substantial pieces of nonfiction prose and a number of smaller pieces. We will investigate the issues surrounding the notions of style and voice and will spend a considerable amount of time thinking collectively about how factual material and research are accommodated within the stylistic constraints of literary texts. My expectation is that the discussions will be lively and civil and that everyone will contribute.
Faculty

Alternatives in Nonfiction

Open , Seminar—Spring

This two-in-one class will develop—through readings, short exercises, and the production of a couple of large stand-alone pieces of work—an understanding and a mastery of writing at the opposing poles of contemporary nonfiction. In the first half of the semester, we will explore journalism at the point where it becomes literature; in the second half of the semester, current and historical radical and experimental forms of factual writing. The reading list will include writers ranging from Sei Shonagon, Jonathan Edwards, and Thomas DeQuincey to Kamau Braithwaite, Joseph Mitchell, Jan Morris, Susan Sontag, and David Foster Wallace. Students will be expected to embrace both the discipline of clarity and classical order and the imperative to make art that is new, strange, and unprecedented.

Faculty

Nonfiction Workshop

Open , Seminar—Spring

This workshop will focus on the elements common to a wide range of nonfiction writing. We will examine and analyze the structure of the well-formed sentence, of the paragraph, of the personal essay and memoir fragment, and of literary journalism. Readings will be drawn from a wide range of contemporary texts, some very current, with a few classic texts as models; and the class will be assigned exercises based on the readings. We will look closely at some point in the semester at experimental nonfiction writing. Students will also be asked to workshop at least two substantial pieces of nonfiction prose and a number of smaller pieces. We will investigate the issues surrounding the notions of style and voice and will spend a considerable amount of time thinking collectively about how factual material and research are accommodated within the stylistic constraints of literary texts. My expectation is that the discussions will be lively and civil and that everyone will contribute.

Faculty